Faith is positive contagion

The atheist Peter Boghossian, to whose anti-apologetics I have been responding, likes to claim that he is mystified by how faith can be beneficial. But again and again, across a wide range of disciplines from medicine to sports, we see that “pretending to know what you don’t know” is materially beneficial to the faith-filled individual. From Grantland:

Anyone who plays sports understands this phenomenon. We want to use the same clubs, shoes, balls, bats, and everything else as the pros because they’re the best, and we want to give ourselves every chance to play as well as them. It’s as much about confidence as it is quality equipment.

This isn’t just common sense — social scientists have actually studied how using “professional” gear affects amateurs’ performance. In 2011, researchers at the University of Virginia laid out a putting mat, a ball, and a putter, and invited 41 undergraduates to take part in an experiment. The students were asked to do two things: Take 10 test putts and then try to draw the hole to scale. Half were told nothing about the putter’s origins. The rest were told it once belonged to a PGA Tour player. You already know what happened next. The students who thought they were using a pro’s club sank more putts and drew the hole larger than the control group. The social scientists running the experiment must have known that what they were witnessing was pure superstition. How else to describe the process by which years of practice and skill can be transmitted from an expert to an amateur through the simple transfer of an object? But because they’re academics, they use a different term — positive contagion.

Thus the Magic Putter refutes the false claim of the inutility of faith, even faith as incorrectly defined by the atheist. What the academic philosopher Peter Boghossian has clearly never mastered is a simple and intrinsically scientific concept: Let reason be silent when experience gainsays its conclusions.